Esports in New Zealand: can it go any further?

People make money out of all sorts of things – they trade online, they gamble, they work, or they play games and win ridiculously large prizes. The last part is especially important because, in a world where the gaming industry yields more revenues than the movie and music industries, it’s logical to assume that people who play those games should eventually get something out of the process apart from joy and fun.

And that non-emotional outcome is already apparent. The recent Esports tournaments and their prize pools are indicating that professional gaming is rapidly becoming a pretty lucrative industry.

And the countries that realize this, including New Zealand, are making an effort to encourage this process. In fact, New Zealand’s University of Waikato has recently opened the Omen Esports Arena which brings students from all major or minor programs in a single space, allowing them to play their favorite games and relax a bit.

A rapidly expanding industry

Esports is continuously ranking as one of the fastest-expanding entertainment segments all over the world. In fact, the gaming industry is now larger than the movie or music industries – how big is that?

So, it’s no wonder that avid gamers from all around the world want to turn their hobby into a dream job. And rightly so, because many of them invest a lot of time and mind resource into mastering the video games. And make no mistake, video games are one of the best mind exercises that test the strategizing skills, alongside other abilities. 

But video games aren’t the only fun- and mind-provoking games in the industry. Since we’re talking about New Zealand, the NZ casino games, along with others, are increasingly put next to the most appealing video games because of their complexity and demand for mind-power. 

67% of New Zealanders actively play games

And when it comes to video games, various records indicate that almost two-thirds of New Zealanders enjoy playing various titles, including Assassin’s Creed, God of War, and Fortnite. And since the new possibilities are emerging even from the most academic establishments, the future looks brighter than ever before.

Aside from the University of Waikato and its Omen Esports Arena, there are other universities that go as far as to offer Esports major and minor programs to their students. So, with the annual revenue of almost a billion dollars and prize payouts that easily go beyond a million, the prospects look promising, right?

Being a pro gamer isn’t as dreamy as it sounds

It turns out, not so much. While more than half of New Zealanders are regular video gamers, they still need to be very proficient in the game to compete with other gamers and get significant prizes that outweigh even what some of the most prestigious rugby, football, or other players earn. But even if you are a professional, there are only so many people that can actually win those tournaments.

So, to answer our question of whether professional gaming has real prospects: yes, it does, but only for a small fraction of gamers. Let’s take a look at one example to make matters a bit clearer: the recent Fortnite World Cup, where a teenager under the alias of Bugha won a staggering $3 million in a first-place prize pool. The tournament combined 100 players from all around the world and while the prize pool was $30 million in size, not every member would get such significant payouts, obviously.

Therefore, certain individuals can make millions out of their Esports careers, but the rest collective 99% will have to find another way of monetizing their abilities, be it Twitch or YouTube streaming or anything else.

But we’re still not suggesting that Esports is a lost cause for the majority of gamers. In New Zealand, one of the most popular Esports hubs that combine New Zealanders, as well as other citizens from Australasia, is called Lets Play Live. It hosts lots of individual tournaments with large prize payouts such as the Rocket League Oceanic Championship which had a $55,500 prize pool.

Since we compared Esports to the conventional forms of sports like rugby and football, it’s important to note that while the ultimate payments are higher in Esports tournaments, they can, in no way, be considered as a stable form of income. On the flip side, every major sports club has a certain annual budget which is exclusively dedicated to the players’ salaries. So, it’s pretty apparent that Esports can hardly become a source of regular income for the majority of gamers.

Summing up

In conclusion, Esports in New Zealand and anywhere else is one a rapid rise. And the current support that this sector is getting from governments, academic establishments, and other entities suggests that it’s only going to expand in the future.

But even though professional players reap millions of dollars from single tournaments, it’s still difficult to say that Esports is going to become a source of income for the majority of players.